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Sony Cuts Deals, Makes Broadband Moves

Through a series of deals with AOL Time Warner and Nokia, tied to a new near-field wireless networking technology, Sony is setting itself up to compete in a variety of upcoming markets.

Sony chief operating officer Kunitake Ando announced the deals at last month’s Comdex Fall/2001. Sony and Nokia will develop standards for interoperability between mobile devices and other CE products. The AOL deal has the two companies working to bring entertainment services at broadband speeds to all types of home CE products. AOL will work to create a special Web browser for CE devices. Ando did not give a time frame for when products or services would be forthcoming from these deals.

Ando also unveiled a few working product concepts that are indicative of where he hopes to take the company in the next few years. This included a new wireless user interface code named Feel. From his demonstrations it appeared Feel works in a similar fashion to Bluetooth in that it allows Feel-equipped devices to recognize and communicate with each other, basically creating a small wireless network whenever they come into contact.

Feel is so new that U.S.-based Sony executives had very few details on how it works, but one hinted that it combines Bluetooth and Sony proprietary wireless technology.

The Feel system is the centerpiece for another Sony venture, the Ubiquitous Value Network (UVN). This concept’s premise is that for the Internet and home network to be truly valuable, it must be available anywhere and anytime to the end user. Ando said the development of the UVN will require several steps, the first of which is the inclusion of an IP address on all Sony CE devices, making them Internet enabled. Next is the full implementation of 5G wireless technology, which will have the ability to bring full motion video to portable devices.

“We want people to move between the virtual world and real world without notice,” he said.

The first of the UVN devices to be shown was a wristwatch-type communicator that featured a small LCD, digital camera, cellphone, a microphone and has Web connectivity. People using this can have face-to-face cellular conversations, access e-mail or communicate with a computer. This last task will be accomplished with Sony’s new Feel wireless connectivity technology. Shipping and pricing were not discussed.

Sony unveiled a new software application called PercasTV. This allows end users to create live video shows on the Web. It takes video from a camcorder, runs it into a PC and then out onto the Web.

Ando said all of these networked devices will require a massive amount of storage space, so his company has created the Personal Network Home Storage system. This will hold a terabyte, or 1,000GB, of data. This is enough capacity to store 450 DVD movies, 2,000 CDs or more than 100,000 digital images and video. Ando said it would be affordably priced, but gave no further details on that or when it might ship.